The origins of Canon start in the 1930s with Goro Yoshida. Inspired by the simplicity of the construction used to create the Leica cameras popular at the time, he decides to make a Japanese spinoff. It is at this point that Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory, which eventually evolves into Canon as we know today, is formed. But, World War II hits, and the devastation that occurred to Tokyo nearly caused them to close entirely.
Thankfully, following the war, they were reinvigorated during the Allied Forces occupancy as demand for photography increased. Interesting, this was caused primarily from demand from the Allied Force troops, who made up the most considerable portion of their initial customer base at this time.
Their desire to document their experiences while overseas allowed Canon to restart manufacturing. It’s at this point in the 1950s where Takeshita Mitari takes over the company.
During the following ten years, Canon experiences several significant milestones. First, Takeshita ventures to New York, inspiring him to consolidate the company facilities and headquarters into a single unified location.
From there, they experience their first real breakthrough in their lens ecosystem with a 50mm f/1.8. This lens was the one that initially leads users to adopt their ecosystem.
During this time, they also began expanding production to the Western Hemisphere and unify their logo, which remains identical to the current logo today. Not only that, but they also slow begin developing SLRs, and progressively migrate from the traditional, yet popular, rangefinder design.
In 1959, Canon released their first SLR with the Canon Flex. From there, they continue refining SLRs, and in 1976 they release the AE-1. The AE-1 was designed to be an affordable and easy alternative to make photography more accessible to the everyday shooter or enthusiast.
It was an insanely popular camera and a landmark release that went to sell over a million units in the subsequent years. For many, it was one of the very first cameras that truly got everyday users excited about photography, and became a go-to staple for the manufacturer.
It’s at this point Canon experiences a turning point, and they begin to transition to compete in not only the consumer market but also the professional market as well. And in 1979, they released the F1.
The F1 was their initial breakthrough release into the professional market, with its inclusion of auto exposure, FD mount, and a ten-year promise of continued support to the system.
In the following years, they experience a surge of professionals quickly adopting and supporting their ecosystem. 1987 Canon makes the risk to leap to their EOS system, which used an electronic mount.
This move risked alienating their professional user base, who were already heavily investing in the previous FD mount. However, the risk ended up becoming a huge success and a significant milestone in their evolution.
It’s not until 2008, with the release of the 5D Mark II, do they have their next breakthrough camera, however. The 5D Mark II is acclaimed as the camera that initiated the DSLR video revolution.
It was the first SLR to shoot 1080p video at 30 fps, a feature unheard of up until this point in commercial cameras. And it’s from this point that we now know Canon as we know it today.